The Late Late Show melted hearts on Friday night when a woman who went missing as a child 44 years ago was reunited with the man who found her after 19 hours. 

Colette Ryan "went walkabout" as a two-year-old from the Butlin's holiday camp in Mosney, Co Meath when her mother let go of her hand for seconds to take a photograph of her father and brother.

It was 19 hours before she was found.

"Apparently I got out through a hole in the fence," she told Ryan Tubridy.

"I was found a couple of miles from the Butlin's holiday camp. I was found asleep by the Belfast-Dublin railway line."

Colette was found by Martin Rowe, a member of the Defence Forces who was on his honeymoon.

Colette Ryan recounts her very big adventure

"He was 22 years of age," Colette continued. "I made contact with Martin through Facebook a week-and-a-half/two weeks ago and we spoke several lengths about it."

Martin had seen Colette's favourite red ball through the grass, having decided to search an area other people had discounted.

"He searched and he saw the red ball through the high grass," said Colette. "And there I was, about 50 yards or so from the Belfast-Dublin railway line, asleep with my red ball in the grass."

"When's your birthday?" the host then asked.

"Tomorrow," Colette replied, revealing that she was going to meet Martin on Saturday.

"That's so exciting," said the Late Late presenter. "Would you like to meet him now? Because during the commercial break we were busy distracting you while we brought Martin down a few rows..."

And with that, the old friends were reunited.

Friends reunited

"We've seen each other on Facebook," said Colette, fighting back tears. "But it's so nice to meet each other in person.

"I've so much to thank him for. I've a two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter; I've my son, and without this man I wouldn't have had any of that." 

"This girl had been missing for 19 hours," Martin recounted. "I heard nothing that night because I was involved in a talent contest in Mosney - and people said that it wasn't a talent contest because I went to bed early! [Laughs] 

"But the following morning I went to breakfast and they announced that a little girl had been missing and they were looking for volunteers - there had been people out all night."

"We went down the back gates out of Mosney," he continued. "And on the way down I seen the wire where she got out... There was high grass and there was a wall dividing Mosney and the railway track, and just as I was walking along I seen a break in the wall. People said, 'Ah God, she wouldn't go down there'. I said, 'I'm going down - I'm going to have a look'. 

"I went over the wall and just as I went over the wall I seen this red thing... And when I went down I seen Colette asleep - it was a red ball - with her head on the red ball."

The hero of the day - Martin Rowe

Martin said Colette's first words when he woke her were to tell him not to take her red ball.

"I said, 'No, I'm not going to take your red ball; I'm going to bring you back up to your mammy'. She just nodded the head and again, 'Mind my red ball!'"

"It's amazing," concluded Colette. "I actually feel like we know each other for years because we have been speaking on the phone. But it's just amazing to meet the man who changed my life."

"It's just amazing to meet the man who changed my life"

Watch Colette and Martin's reunion in full on the RTÉ Player.